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Written by Rachelle Haughn
A diverse mix of pilots converge for an exciting event
Event coverage
As seen in the December 2017 issue of
Model Aviation.



Photo Gallery

MultiGP International Open 2017


“Goggles down.”

“Let’s keep it chill on the flightline.” (All is quiet.)

“Alright pilots, arm your quads.”

“We go live on the tone in less than five.”

A tone sounds. Then, suddenly, the silence is broken by the whir of spinning propellers and the beeping of receiver antennas.

As the quadcopters rush to the starting gate and the pilots’ pulses race, announcer Joe Scully quickly updates the competitors and spectators on the location and pace of each quad. (This scenario was repeated countless times.)

What happened that day, you might wonder. That was history in the making. That was the inaugural RIOT MultiGP International Open. It was held at none other than AMA’s 1,100-plus acre International Aeromodeling Center (IAC), in Muncie, Indiana.

“History in the making” is a bold statement to make, but the numbers don’t lie. Eight separate FPV racing tracks were spread across the IAC property during the daytime, eight pilots were able to fly simultaneously at each track, and 312 pilots made the trek to Muncie.

The event officially opened at 8 a.m. on August 9 and concluded late in the afternoon on August 13. Pilots came from across the US and other nations, including South Korea, Australia, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Mexico, to participate.

One of the most common comments made by attendees of all ages was that they loved the opportunity to fly as much as they wanted.

“These facilities are awesome and it’s so cool to have eight tracks running at the same time. I’ve been going to the tracks with no waiting” to fly, said Kate Johnson. The magazine writer from Minnesota attended the event with her husband, Bryce, and her brother, Jesse Perkins, the inventor of the Tiny Whoop micro quadcopter.




Kate Johnson smiles after competing at the Freestyle track.


Each night, from 8 to midnight, multiple LED Tiny Whoop tracks were set up inside of the Claude McCullough Education Facility and next to the National Model Aviation Museum. The tracks that were used during the daylight hours were the Micro/UTT 2, Team, World Cup, Spec/UTT 1, Freestyle, Battle, Rookie, and Wing tracks.




After the contests ended each day, Tiny Whoop enthusiasts enjoyed flying through an LED obstacle course near the National Model Aviation Museum.


The Spec track was only for quadcopters that met certain size specifications. The Universal Time Trial (UTT) tracks are standardized tracks designed by MultiGP that are used for races around the world.




Pilots check their quadcopters at the start circles at the Spec track competition.


“It’s a brave new world—uncharted territory,” Shawn O’Sullivan, of MultiGP press relations, stated about RIOT MultiGP International Open, while hanging out at the Freestyle track.

The Freestyle track featured obstacles such as a silo, a tractor with a bell that multirotors could attempt to ring, a large, cube-shaped obstacle (that collapsed and broke a few times), construction machinery, and trees. Also at the Freestyle track were Rotor Riot members Drew “Le Drib” Camden, (then-member) Steele “Mr. Steele” Davis, Tommy “Ummagawd” Tibajia, Kevin “StingersSwarm” Dougherty, and Chad Kapper. Many who visited the Freestyle track took time to introduce themselves to members of the Rotor Riot team, share stories, and take selfies.

Drew, then the newest member of the group, admired the track’s setup. “This Freestyle track honors what Freestyle is.” While being interviewed, Drew briefly paused from answering questions to meet and take photos with a fan. Throughout the event, he also traveled to the other tracks to try them out and compete. Drew joined Rotor Riot in July after Chad, the founder of Rotor Riot, took notice of his vlogs.

The members of Rotor Riot weren’t the only A-name pilots at the event. Shaun “Nytfury” Taylor, Jordan “Jet” Temkin, Luke “BanniUK” Bannister, and others flew at many of the tracks, greeted fans, and competed. For newcomers to the hobby, such as Soren Monroe-Anderson, age 14, meeting other pilots whom he admired was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “I admire BanniUK and Johnny FPV [Johnny Schaer],” he stated while working on his quad at the Spec track. RIOT MultiGP International Open was the first event that Soren had attended in Muncie. He said that he has flown at five other races and placed well in the MultiGP Regional qualifier.

Before participating in FPV racing, Soren flew fixed-wing foamies for five years after a friend taught him how to fly. Roughly three years ago, he saw drone videos on YouTube and decided that he wanted to build one. Having an RC background made it easier for him to learn how to fly via FPV, he said.




Before teaching himself how to fly FPV racing quadcopters, Soren Monroe-Anderson flew fixed-wing foamies.


Soren was not the only FPV racing pilot with an aeromodeling background. Those competing at many of the tracks, including the Rookie and World Cup tracks, said that before becoming involved in FPV racing, they flew model helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.

These pilots include the one who placed first in what was the hottest-contested race with the biggest purse at the RIOT MultiGP International Open, the World Cup. Thomas “BMSThomas” Bitmatta, 18, who traveled to the event from his home in Australia, said that the first time he held a transmitter was to fly a fixed-wing Scale foamie. “I flew RC for six years. With an RC plane, you are limited by where you can fly.” Thomas said he lives in a “built-up area” and began running out of places to fly.




The World Cup started in the late evening and lasted into the early morning hours. Several tower lights and LED rope lights were used to illuminate the track to help the pilots retrieve and fly their quadcopters.


He started participating in FPV racing two years ago. In August 2016, Thomas won the inaugural Australian Drone Nationals, held in Sydney. That earned him a free trip to compete in the RIOT MultiGP International Open.

Thomas, who did not let his win in Sydney jade him, stood while competing, often with a smile on his face. One of only a handful of pilots who did so at the event, Thomas said he stands because it’s familiar to him from his RC airplane days and to “take up less space.” Thomas’ father, Paul, also stands with him when he competes. Sometimes he cheers him on, sometimes he wears goggles to get a view from the cockpit, and other times, he is a spotter. Early in the practice for the World Cup race, Thomas said he hoped to make it to the top 10 for the World Cup on Saturday night.

Young Rok Son also traveled from a foreign country to Muncie to compete. Like Thomas, he has an aeromodeling background, but his is more extensive.

The South Korean began flying model helicopters when he was 6 years old and continued for 10 years. He previously visited Muncie in 2014 to attend the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association (IRCHA) Jamboree. “It’s a pretty neat, big field,” he said of the IAC. “There are not mountains; it’s clear.”

The 18-year-old stated that flying FPV racing was similar to flying helis. “I love to compete. It makes me happy.”

Another pilot with an RC helicopter background was retired toolmaker Chris Grenner. While preparing to fly at the Rookie track, he stated that he flew helis for two years and attended the IRCHA Jamboree twice. “Two years ago, I switched to quads. They’re easier to fly and they handle crashes better.” All of his quadcopters are scratch-built, and he even built what he calls a quad garage, which is a wooden stand that can hold multiple quadcopters.

At another track, near the rear of AMA’s property, pilots were enjoying a sport that closely resembles traditional aeromodeling. FPV wing racing is the marriage of model aviation and FPV racing. “They’re big, they’re loud, they’re fast,” Australia native and current Montreal resident David Whiddon stated about racing wings. “The thing I love about wings is [that] the airframe makes a big difference. I try to come up with the best design.”

The Wing track was set up similar to the other FPV tracks at the RIOT MultiGP International Open, but with wider, taller, and more prominent gates and obstacles.
The fastest wing that David has flown is a prototype that reached a speed of 127 mph and weighed 1.5 pounds. Most wings are made of EPP foam and covered with laminate, he said. David, a member of the FPV Wing Racing Association (FPVWRA), owns TBRC Wings, a FPV flying wing manufacturing company.




David Whiddon smiles before hand-launching an FPV racing wing. He is a member of the FPVWRA and designs FPV racing wings.


The leader of FPVWRA (aka the wing commander), Alex “IBCrazy” Greve, also attended the Muncie event. When he wasn’t racing, Alex flew his red Gremlin triplane for fun. The lightweight foamie resembles a park flyer, but can be flown via FPV. “I like breaking people’s perceptions—that wow moment when [I get] quad pilots to experience something different.”

Alex, owner of Video Aerial Systems, was the first person to create a circular polarization antenna. His technology is widely used at FPV racing competitions, including the RIOT MultiGP International Open.

Two contests were held each day, August 10-12, and the final one was at the Battle track on the afternoon of August 13. The contest that drew the most spectators, had the highest energy, the most nail-biting moments, and handed out the biggest prizes, was the World Cup. It began during the evening of Saturday, August 12, and concluded at approximately 1:15 a.m. Sunday.

After countless rounds, Thomas was named the winner. Among those finishing in the top 10 with him were Young Rok, 11-year-old Ashton “Drobot Racer” Gamble, and Frenchman Dunkan “Mr. Donuts” Bossion, a well-known 3-D RC helicopter pilot and former Heli Masters World Champion.

When Paul realized that Thomas had won the World Cup, he started jumping for joy, cheering for his son, and hugging him. As soon as he landed, Thomas was surrounded by fellow pilots congratulating him.

“I’m in complete shock,” Thomas stated, somewhat out of breath, shortly before receiving his trophy and $2,500. “I can’t believe it. Everyone was racing amazing. This is nothing like I’ve ever experienced.” Many other pilots likely felt the same way.


Winners

Class First Second Third
World Cup Thomas “BMS Thomas” Bitmatta Mark “McGap” Braymer Jerrod “Jrod” Quillen
Spec Race Thomas Bitmatta Zach “FalconX” Carlson Jerrod Quillen
Freestyle Luis “WarraGP” Guerra Lincoln “Aero_linc” Black Christian “Adaptfpv” Logsdon
Team Race Nexxblades Flightclub Raceflight
Battle TealDrone6 Dallas Drone Stars Rotor Riot
Micro Track Seth “PhreakinFPV” Eakin Lucas “Droner” Dearborn Steve “The Steve” Petrotto
Rookie Gabby “Cannonball” Chavez Rick “Ricky Bobby” Kulis Noel “SmileyFPV” Harris
Wing Adam “PalmliX” Palmer Steve Petrotto Alex “IBCrazy” Greve


Sponsors

The inaugural RIOT MultiGP International Open was sponsored by the following:
AMA
EMAX USA
Futaba
HobbyKing
Hobbywing
Horizon Hobby
ImmersionRC
Rotor Riot
Teal Drones
Team BlackSheep
Video Aerial Systems

—Rachelle Haughn
rachelleh@modelaircraft.org


Sources:

MultiGP
www.multigp.com

Rotor Riot
www.rotorriot.com

IRCHA
www.ircha.org

FPVWRA
fpvwra.net

AMA’s Flickr
www.flickr.com/photos/modelaircraft

Video Aerial Systems
videoaerialsystems.com






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